By Jessika Allsop with contributions from Mary Johnatakis
When I first found out I was pregnant, the most common question I was asked was not how far along are you or what are you having, the question was, “Are you going to keep working?” I always responded the same way, “I have always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom so that is my plan.” I would love to tell you that everyone I told supported me 100 percent, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
Some people would ask if I could afford to stay home, or what I would do with myself all day. Others would roll their eyes, and make comments like “how fun, you can finally watch Dr. Phil and take naps.” Even members of my own family questioned why I would want to be a stay-at-home mom, with my education, professional skills, experience, etc. These questions and comments surprised and hurt me. They opened my eyes to the stigma of being a stay-at-home mom in today’s society; a stigma, surprisingly, created by women. And unfortunately now when I am asked what my career is, I hesitate to answer that I am a stay-at-home mom, worried about the judgments that will surely follow.
We are surrounded by women in our lives who believe that to be considered a successful woman in today’s society, we must be professionally successful. I once thought myself to be a feminist, fighting for the equality of women in society and the ability to choose what we want to do and who we want to be. But there are factions of feminists out there who don’t want a choice for women, they just want women to take on all the same roles traditionally assigned to men and shed all the traditional roles of women. If this is the new definition and goal for feminism, then I can no longer claim to be one.
In a recent article, one particular radical feminist even took it so far as to say:
“Let’s please be serious grown-ups: real feminists don’t depend on men. Real feminists earn a living, have money and means of their own…I do expect educated and able-bodied women to be holding their own in the world of work.”
This particular feminist, though her article was focused on wealthy mothers, concluded her article arguing that motherhood isn’t a real job. This is insulting to every mother I know, wealthy or not:
“Yes, of course, it’s something — actually, it’s something almost every woman at some time does, some brilliantly and some brutishly and most in the boring middle of making okay meals and decent kid conversation. But let’s face it: It is not a selective position. A job that anyone can have is not a job; it’s a part of life, no matter how important people insist it is (all the insisting is itself overcompensation).”
It’s important to note that this particular feminist is not a mother.
Benefits of Stay-at-Home Moms
In analyzing today’s society you will find that an increasing number of women are leaving the home to work in the professional world. While there are some cases of this being done out of necessity and personal fulfillment, it is common sense to assume that part of the result could be the stigma associated with being a stay-at-home mom. One study reported that 71 percent of American mothers who had children under the age of 18 are in the labor force. With the increasing number of mothers working outside the home it is only natural that research has been done to uncover the effects this has on their families.
There has been quite a bit of research done in particular, concerning children who have working mothers, and there are definite negative patterns that have been identified. In the same study referenced above the research found that none of the stay-at-home moms that were interviewed reported behavior problems in their children. However, 42 percent of the working mothers did report problems. The author of the study explained that this “finding could be related to children being cared for by several people (both out-of-home care providers and parents.)” This inconsistency in parenting and discipline techniques could contribute to behavior problems.
Another study referenced recently in a parenting article found that “children of mothers who worked full-time in the first year of that child’s life received modestly lower child cognitive scores relative to children of mothers who do not work on all eight cognitive outcomes examined.”
It is safe to assume that while this appears to be immediately affecting our children negatively, it will eventually negatively affect our society as a whole. These are the children who will soon make up the adult population of our society. So there are some arguments to be made for the benefits of being a stay-at-home mom both for our children and our society
Combating the Stigma
So now the question is how do we make a change? How do we combat the stigma of the stay-at-home mom?
The answer lies in changing the feminist platform back to what the platform was built for in the first place. Feminists once fought for the opportunity to make a choice, they fought for the opportunities of women to do what they want to do and be who they want to be without suffering discrimination. This is the argument that we must return to. We must teach women to once again respect women, to support each other no matter their choice and encourage everyone else in our society to do the same. We should open our mouths and speak up in support of the stay-at-home moms in our lives, and for ourselves, and our right to choose.
I personally will overcome my own hesitation when asked, “What do you do for a living?” I will quickly respond, “I choose to be a stay-at-home mom.” If I am criticized for this I will stand up and say, “I believe it to be the most important job I will ever have, and I know I am the best fit for aking on the responsibility of nurturing and teaching my children. I wouldn’t change a thing.”
For more studies and research on the impact of women working outside the home, go here.
Jessika Allsop is a stay at home mom finishing up a bachelor’s degree in Marriage and Family studies at Brigham Young University Idaho. She is the wife of a wonderful man, and the mother to a beautiful two year old boy, and will be adding another little boy to her family in January of 2015. Jessika has been a passionate advocate for families since she was a teen and has become even more dedicated since starting her own family.